The Israeli military has stumbled on a
novel way of busting draft dodgers: checking out their Facebook
profiles. According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), 1,000 women
were found falsely posing as orthodox Jews after photos and
information on their profiles indicated otherwise.
According to Israeli law, orthodox
women are exempt from a military draft that effects most individuals
in the country. Ultra-orthodox male Jews and members of Israel’s Arab
minority are also exempt from military service.
During hearings in the Knesset, the
Israeli parliament, on Monday, Brig. Gen. Amir Rogovsky told
parliamentarians about the IDF’s embrace of social media to catch
purported draft dodgers. Six separate offices are involved in the
task of looking for women who falsely claim to be religious. These
offices use a variety of data mining techniques to parse the Facebook
profiles of potential suspects.
The methods used by the IDF were,
frankly, rather ingenious. Fake
party invitations for events taking place on Friday night were
sent to individuals under investigation. Recipients who marked their
replies as “Attending” or “Might Be Attending” were summoned
into questioning as orthodox Jewish women are expected to observe the
sabbath. Other women avoiding military service were found through
more conventional methods; one woman was summoned after a photo on
Facebook showed her holding a menu from a non-kosher restaurant.
It is unknown whether the IDF set up
fake accounts to friend individuals under investigation or whether
Israeli teenagers (like teenagers everywhere) are particularly poor
at understanding Facebook privacy settings. However, the party
invitations appear to suggest that fake accounts were created by IDF
Orthodox women who receive an exemption
from military service in Israel are required to sign a declaration
stating they maintain a “religious lifestyle,” do not travel on
the sabbath and do not eat non-kosher foods.
All of the women found by the IDF’s
investigators to be falsely claiming the religious exemption were
called up to military service. According to the Jerusalem Post,
no legal charges were bought up against any of them. Thirty-five percent of Israeli
women receive army exemptions under the orthodox waiver in addition
to Israeli-Arab women.
most interesting factor in all of this is that the news that the IDF
is actively involved in data mining social media sites. According to
official IDF magazine BaMahachne,
an investigative division within Military Intelligence’s Department
of Information Security actively
searches through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social
networking sites. The Associated Press also interestingly
claims that the same division “reviews transcripts of hundreds
of senior officers’ conversations, to ensure they are not speaking to
journalists without authorization.” No further information was given.
military has had an ambivalent relationship to Facebook in the past.
This week pro-Palestinian Web activists placed
a list online containing the personal details of 200 soldiers who
fought in the 2009 Gaza conflict, using material partially obtained on the site. Back in August, former Israeli
soldier Eden Abergil also caused an international incident when she
pictures of her humiliating Palestinian detainees with humorous captions
on Facebook as well.